Back to the Rooftop with the Otis

As I set out on my run earlier this evening, something I saw while walking through Hayes Green or heard Ira Glass say on my iPod flooded my head with memories (patchy though they may be) of sitting on Ote's roof back in Boston and talking about Buddhism while consuming entirely too much wine.

That was in the summer of 2005, when I was still relatively raw and achy from the hell of the previous November, and though I can't entirely recall the specifics of our conversation, I do remember tearily protesting to Otis something about how defeatist it seemed to agree with the Buddhist take that life is suffering if, indeed, you were suffering. I think I said something to the effect that the only way I could keep myself afloat was by believing that that wasn't so, at least not in the long term, and by holding fast to all of the moments that in fact argued against life as suffering.

So I thought of that today, then immediately wished to have the chance to replay that evening, that conversation, from my current perspective. I wanted the Now Me to be able to tell the Then Me that there would come a time when happiness wouldn't require slathering good memories with mortar and working them into a wall that would hold back the bad ones, when it would seem entirely possible to feel that life was good and right and full in general, rather than just in fits and starts, in moments that could disappear as quickly as they had arrived.

Then I ran.

After I got home, and was standing at the sink doing dishes and mulling over the verbose, pseudo-analytical e-mail I'd sent Dave earlier (which, as an aside, included references to both one of Aesop's fables and--yes, D, wait for it--an essay from O Magazine), I changed my mind. I decided that, even if I were given the chance, I'd want the Now Me to let the Then Me hack through things on her own.

Readers with sensitive stomachs will want to skip this paragraph, because there's no way I can word it (at least not at this hour) without it sounding at least a bit pat. For those still with me: what occurred to me at the kitchen sink is that I'm retrospectively grateful for all the crap that's come before now, because it makes me realize how intensely awesome now truly is. Though I would've likely told off anyone attempting to get me to see this at the time, there's something to be said for having your heart julienned/sucker punched/danced upon with hobnailed boots/all around broken, because when you sew it back together and the scars finally cover over, it comes back smarter and stronger.

A word I find myself using frequently these days is lucky. I feel immensely lucky that Erik found me, lucky to have friends and family whose hearts are swelling right along with mine, lucky to have taken a risk a few weeks back, lucky that it paid off. And I feel lucky for all those years of having not enough; they've made me even more thankful to finally feel like everything is growing full.


sgazzetti said...

This is uncannily similar in tenor to the conversations Magda and I have been having lately: that the good things are better if you have earned your way to them through learning by experience what does not work, what you do not want.

It makes us feel slightly sorry for people who married their high school sweetheart and have never known a hobnailed boot.

Mike Richman said...

Or - I feel compelled to say this - that all moments are of the hobnailed boot variety. Really, though, it's more like this: even the most ecstatic moment has a piece that is suffering. Suffering is always tinged with ecstacy. The two states only exist in relation to one another and all moments have both. Bhuddists are just realer than real; they see death in everything and – if you wanna go crazy deep – that everything isn’t really real anyway. So take your pick. The devil’s in the details.

Emily said...

Here's John Mortimer's take, from Where There's a Will: Thoughts on the Good Life:

"I can only suggest you do your best to banish anxiety, possibly with a glass of Champagne, and lay yourself open to the moment when happiness becomes irresistible. I'm writing this at a good time of the year. The beech trees are covered with fresh, green leaves--we are going to have a birthday lunch in the garden. My grandchildren will play in the mysterious sunken copses, disused flint pits now filled with tall and ancient trees, where I also played as a child. The daffodils will be in flower, and the dogs will be jumping over them. There is every possible reason for happiness, but it's a moment of sadness too. How many more such birthdays will there be? It's sad my mother never saw my daughters grow up. Although the poet Shelley was right about our sincerest laughter being fraught with sadness, it's the sadness, in a way, which makes happiness complete."